by guest writer
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) is a milestone cinematic experience of the early talkies. Having as main theme WWI and its impact on the two main nations that fought the war, Germany and France, the movie is the most realistic war movie to have come out from Hollywood. The story is told in a mesmerizing visual way having as result a spellbound upon its audience. The explanation is simple when it comes to the cinematography: the uncredited participation of the great expressionist master cinematographer, Karl Freund. His involvement was not considered worth mentioning by the Universal Studios producers, although he was a member of the filming staff. The perfect weight given by the camera to close spaces or open spaces develops the impression that it is not even an equipment, it is a living person. The aesthetics are just immaculate and metaphors are used to create a close relationship with death. The leather boots are the first example, then the most symbolic one, the butterfly.
Paul (Lewis Ayres) is the central character, who fights the war together with his soldier buddies, mainly colleagues from the school they were recruited from. His belief in the country he is fighting for decreases slowly and surely as he finds out that going to war doesn’t mean much more than dying with no purpose. The movie is a vehement critique of the horrors the young soldier face when being encouraged and instigated by school masters who don’t know how reality looks like and only speak up for ideology. Lewis Milestone’s masterpiece is an honest lookout at what war follows and destroys. All Quiet on the Western Front will always remain a benchmark of perfection in movie making.
photo: still from the movie / credit: Universal Pictures